Kennedy says publicly she wants Senate seat

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Caroline Kennedy said publicly for the first time Wednesday that she wants to be New York's next senator as she launched a tour of upstate cities to meet with politicians and power brokers

The daughter of President John F. Kennedy met with Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll and others as she began her campaign to be appointed to the seat held by Hillary Rodham Clinton, if Clinton is confirmed as President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.

"I just wanted to say, as some of you may have heard, I would be honored to be considered for the position of U.S. senator," Kennedy said. "I wanted to come upstate to meet Mayor Driscoll and others to tell them about my experience and also learn how Washington can help upstate New York."

Kennedy noted that a number of elected officials who also have been named as possible Clinton successors.

"There are lot of good candidates the governor is considering and he's laid out a process and I'm proud to be in that process," she said.

Gov. David Paterson will decide who gets the job. The new senator will have to run in 2010 to fill the last two years of Clinton's term and then run for a full term in 2012.

Kennedy, whose uncle, the late Robert F. Kennedy, once held the seat, took no questions.

Her upstate outreach is similar to Clinton's "listening tour" in 1999 and 2000 when she first ran for the Senate.

Like Clinton, Kennedy faces criticism because she's never been elected to public office. Some also worry she would favor New York City interests over the rest of the state.

Kennedy's willingness to embrace the public life of a U.S. senator surprised some after her lifetime of carefully cultivated privacy. But she told a private group in Syracuse that the idea to run didn't just pop into her head when Obama tapped Clinton.

"She said she had been thinking about this for a while, previous to this vacancy coming open," said Syracuse City Councilor Stephanie Miner, who was at the meeting. "She said she is at time in her life where holding public office is something she can do."

A Siena College poll released Wednesday found New York voters are divided over who should fill the seat and that approval ratings for 51-year-old Kennedy and Attorney General Andrew Cuomo are nearly identical.

More New Yorkers believe Paterson will choose Kennedy, by a 31-16 percent margin. Thirty-eight percent said they didn't know or refused to answer and 16 percent felt Paterson would pick someone else.

The telephone survey of 622 registered voters last week had a margin of error of about plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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